Teachers, educators and their organizations as agents of social change

In many societies teachers are looked upon as the individuals who can help to bring about positive changes in the lives of people. They are seen as natural leaders who can give advice on various affairs of the communities. Within the context of their direct interaction with children, parents and communities, teachers and educators could play several major roles in the prevention and elimination of child labour. They can act as:

Frontline monitors and “child watchers”

Teachers are well positioned to identify the school-age children in the community, to encourage parents to enrol them in schools, to provide children with an interesting learning environment and to assist them with their educational problems and needs. Schools are also responsible for monitoring non-enrolment and absences, and teachers and other educational personnel need to be empowered to monitor the school attendance of children, assess whether they are involved in work and to what extent this interferes with their schooling and identify children who are at risk of dropping out. They can then contact the parents and provide help for these children.

Community resource persons on child labour and advocates for children

Teachers can be powerful advocates in the campaign against child labour. They can act as resource persons who can inform children, parents and communities of the importance of education and the harmful effects of child labour on children and society. To enable teachers to play an active role in the campaign against child labour at the community and national levels, they need to be informed and learn about the complexities of child labour – the causes and the solutions. In addition, they need assistance and resources to launch and implement school and community campaigns against child labour.

Catalysts for change in the educational system

Through their own organizations and in cooperation with other trade unions, children’s and women’s rights networks, community organizations and other NGOs, teachers and educators can collaborate with each other and with other organizations to work on curriculum development to strengthen the school management system and to advocate for policy reform that addresses the factors contributing to the exclusion of child labourers from school. Teachers could set up a network among themselves and identify other forums, networks or associations which could support them to influence changes in educational policy and practices.

It is vital that teachers and their organizations participate in decision-making and in educational planning and reform. The very nature of teachers’ organizations as advocates for teachers’ rights makes them effective partners in realizing and maximizing the potential of education in the fight against child labour. All the analyses on the relation between education and child labour point to the urgent need to improve the status of teachers and their working conditions and to address their continuing development as professionals. These are prerequisites for improving the quality of education in all countries, especially in developing countries where most of the world’s child labourers live.